Skip To Main Content

Notes from Tad

Recent writings and talks by our Head of School.



Chapel Talk - March 25, 2020
Tad Roach

 

This talk was delivered by Tad at our first virtual Wednesday night Chapel service on March 25, 2020.


It is an honor to speak with you at the end of our third day of virtual classes this week. I know I speak for every member of the faculty when I say that the very sight of each one of you joining class, greeting classmates, and forming your learning teams was the most miraculous moment of the week. All of us have responded to my call to bring the St. Andrew’s spirit to life this week.
 
As we celebrate the return of our Wednesday night Chapel tradition, I am grateful to our Chapel team of Jay Hutchinson, Odile Jacob, Quinn Kerrane, and Terence Gilheany and Michael Amos and our technology team for bringing us all together.
 
Throughout the history of St. Andrew’s, the Chapel has served as a sanctuary for hope, perspective, redemption, reflection, prayer in the School, and particularly so when we as a community faced uncertainty, fear, and doubt. 
 
We come together here every Wednesday and Sunday during the school year to build a foundation of faith, humanity, and love that directs us to live for goodness, service towards others, and generosity in our lives. It is here where we find unity in our beautiful diversity, hear powerful student, faculty, staff, and guest reflections, and emerge with new hope, new energy, and new spirit. 
 
And to build a foundation of the spirit, we have to work, reflect, listen, and open ourselves to the inspiration and wisdom of all voices and religious traditions. 
 
That communication, fellowship, and unity bring us naturally here when we seek clarity, coherence, and healing.
 
When we meet personal, familial, national or international crises, we rely on this foundation of love, humanity, courage and faith to direct us. St. Andreans came here during World War II, gathered here on the morning of September 11th, and we found the strength to be a witness for faith, hope, and reason in a violent and chaotic world. 
 
Tonight, we come together as St. Andreans to pray and reflect: 
 
We will pray for and reflect on the courage, love, professionalism, and intelligence of medical providers throughout the world; as we do so, we will support shelter in place, stay at home regulations designed to stop the spread of the virus, and give our doctors and nurses the opportunity and equipment to heal patients.
 
We pray for strength and healing for those who are ill with the coronavirus; we pray for patients’ families and loved one.
 
We pray for global leaders and their discernment and courage, urging them to think broadly and generously of others, to act for the good of humanity.
 
We pray for members of this St. Andrew’s extended family—particularly tonight, we give thanks for the beautiful life of Michael Evans ’98; we pray for his family: his partner, parents, and sister, the Class of 1998, and the Board of Trustees in their loss and grief. 
 
We pray for those in the world most vulnerable to the virus: those all religions see as their responsibility: the homeless, the oppressed, the incarcerated, the refugees, the elderly, the children, the poor. 
 
We look in this difficult time for the beauty and majesty of life to reassert itself and make us understand that everything we may have once taken for granted is precious and full of meaning.
 
Tonight I want to share a couple of poems with you. The first is “One Day” by Laura Foley.
 
One Day

I didn't read the news.
I raked a rainbow
of pungent autumn leaves,
played abroad with happy dogs,
held my granddaughter in my arms,
and sat beneath an amiable maple,
attentive to current events.

 
We know that we have questions uppermost in our minds, and they are tied to the questions associated with time: How long will we remain as a country and world in a state of emergency? How long will we need to commit to social distancing? How long will the school year remain in virtual form? How long will it take to level off the surge of the virus? How long will the virus actually be with us? 
 
These are good questions, natural questions, questions for our best researchers, doctors, health care providers. 
 
But in this poem, the speaker takes a break from the news. It seems a deliberate decision, not to withdraw, but to look for and open herself up to meaning in a different way. Perhaps this will be a one day decision, or perhaps what she learns when she discerns hope, love, and meaning in the ordinary will be so extraordinary that one day will lead to another, to a sense of hope and expectation that revitalizes her.
 
The poet beautifully contrasts the news (the day to day struggles, concerns, emergencies) with those elements in life that remind us of the miraculous.
 
As my class discussed this poem with me and Mr. Speers yesterday, we explored the way the text captures the essence of all we really need each day, the gifts of family and nature. The images of nature are full of color, energy, animation, and life—we are dazzled by the description of the explosion of a rainbow of colors, matched by the beautiful autumnal air and smell of leaves being raked. The wild happiness of playing abroad (fully, completely) with happy dogs and the serenity and peace as the speaker holds her granddaughter in her arms, and the amiable welcome of the maple remind us that we are surrounded by moments that give us peace, grace, and meaning. The tree, it seems, is there forever.
 
Mason McKee ’21 remarked that the whole poem sounded so much like the voice and call of Dr. McLean to us all on a trip down to the pond or a walk in the woods. And of course Mason and Dr. McLean were absolutely right. 
 
I sent a letter to past parents this week, wishing them health, and sharing love from St. Andrew’s. I received so many beautiful and inspiring replies, and in one response I received the best gift, a copy of a Czeslaw Milosz  poem entitled “Hope”, friend Dean Crawford, former Professor of English at Vassar College, sent it to me. I would like to end my talk with this reading:
 
Hope

Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch and hearing do not lie, 
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.
 
You cannot enter. But you’re sure it’s there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.
 
Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have no hope.
They think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

 
The poem carefully delineates hope as a sacred gift: this kind of hope is not based on a random or desperate wish or a desire to be immediately released from confusion or pain. Rather, hope is related to the foundation of love each of us has experienced in our lives: “sight, touch, and hearing do not lie”.
 
Once we remember these experiences are with us, we may be separated from them by circumstances beyond our control (the garden you cannot enter), but we know, for certain that hope is there. All we have to do is learn to look more closely and more wisely: 
 
“You cannot enter. But you’re sure it’s there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.”

 
Without hope, it is clear, we miss everything, literally everything that makes us human and dynamic and creative.

So tonight, St. Andrew’s, live with your eyes wide open to the miraculous that has happened in your life, the miraculous that happened today, and the miraculous that will continue to reveal itself over the coming days and weeks.

  • Headmaster News